What Do You Mean We're Locked Out

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"What do you mean we're locked out of the nav system?" Ace asked.

"Just that. We're locked out. I can't alter the course heading," Ivan replied. His eyelids stopped fluttering, and he glanced around as if the answers would jump out at him.

"Aren't you interfaced directly with Betty's computer?" Ace asked.

"Yes," Ivan said.

"Then, why can't you alter the course?" Ace asked.

"I. Don't. Know!" Ivan's eyes bugged, and for a moment he looked more like a normal, primal chimpanzee rather than a super-intelligent cyborg.

Ace took the hint and backed off. Ivan was his best friend and apparently stressed out. It didn't do them any good to fight.

"Alright, alright!" Ace conceded. "It's just that...I've heard stories, ya know? About people trying to get through the blockade. Like, I've heard of Blagovian raiders who tried to sneak in and conquer Earth right after it went up."

Ace shuddered and continued, "The story goes that one of them infiltrated the Galactic Border Patrol and posed as an office clerk to get the codes to drop the positron field keeping everyone out. After months of work, he finally got access, and his crew was on their way to raid Earth. They got as far as the moon before something ripped their ship to shreds. One Blagovian escaped in a lifeboat and got picked up in the Delexian System. They got the story out of him, but he went nuts from the trauma. They had to lock him away in a looney bin. It's pretty clear The Powers That Be don't want anyone messing with Earth. And just 'cause we were born there doesn't mean we can just slide on through like nobody cares."

"We're gonna make it through, Ace," Ivan said. "Don't worry. And I'm certain that once the nav program runs its course, we'll have control again."

Ace shook his head and said, "Yeah, well. You know. It's just that it's illegal for anyone outside to go to Earth. And I'm just not real keen on breaking the law and—"

"Since when?" Ivan interrupted. "Ace, before we started touring with Mustache Supernova you were basically a smuggler! You break the law all the time. Why now, all of a sudden, are you worried about it? I'll tell you why. It's because you're afraid of going back to Earth."

"I ain't afraid of nothing, Ivan." Ace held a mug of cawfeen, a hot brewed stimulant beverage. It was going to be a long night, and Ace decided to switch from beer to a beautiful cup of steamy go-go juice for a recharge.

Annoyed by Ivan's comment, Ace accidentally took too large of swig and burned his top lip and tongue.

"Dammit," Ace said under his breath as he set the cawfeen in a cup holder that slid out from the dash. He tapped a button on the touchscreen nestled among vintage-looking big rig dials and switches. The heads-up display showed an image of the Solar System and a little blinking dot that represented them approaching it. The readout in the corner reported they had three hours until they reached the Oort Cloud, the shell of icy objects that defines the outermost border of the Solar System.

Ace let out a prolonged sigh and brought up the itinerary for the rest of the Mustache Supernova tour. The party at Sleazon's was intended to mark the halfway point of the tour. They still had sixteen weeks to go, and now they would be late rendezvousing with the rest of the massive caravan. If they didn't wrap up this little trek to Earth quickly, they'd be on the hook for the millions of credits worth of sound and light gear in Betty's cargo bay.

"Call me crazy, but I'm not feeling particularly happy there is a homicidal maniac after us, and there's some kind of astral projecting dead-not-dead rock star asleep in our sickbay, Ivan. And we're hurtling through space towards Lemmy knows what. The one thing..." Ace paused for effect. "The one thing that is keeping me from completely freaking out is this El Dorado business. You really think Elvis has some sorta stash of gold?"

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